CultureHealth

“I think we’d like life to be a train… You get on, pick your destination and get off. Every day, you have to see where the wind is and check the currents and see if there’s anybody else on the boat with you who can help out. It’s a sailboat ride — the weather changes and the currents change and the wind changes. It’s not a train ride. That’s the hardest thing I’ve had to accept in my life. I just thought I had to pick the right train — and I worked hard to pick the right train. And darned if I didn’t get off at the end of it and find out that was just a midway station.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor

As so poignantly said by Barbara Brown Taylor, life is not a straight shot path. And that itself is a lesson that so many of us have to unlearn. The timelines, deadlines, and benchmarks of life condition people to think that moving forward means moving in a predetermined, sequential order. Midterms to finals to graduation. High school to college to career. So when an event or decision veers us in another direction, anxiety ensues. Why are things not going as planned? Why isn’t it easy to stay on course? Some people are able to, so why not me?

The problem with these questions is that they are asked on the basis that veering off in life is unfavorable, incorrect, or negative. The funny and elusive fact about life, however, is that deviating from the expected order can be positive and beneficially life-changing.

Ever heard of “Slash Careers”? It’s when an individual with multiple interests pursues multiple careers successfully. Yeah, it’s a thing. There are people out there who start off pursuing a career that they had always planned on but additionally spend time in their already-busy lives to grow an additional vocation. Think a lawyer/filmmaker or therapist/violin maker (that’s real, check out his story and more here!). If you allow yourself to act on your interests, adding a “slash” to your life might be what you need to feel more whole. It’s definitely not something that everyone plans on, but it may just be the adjustment that binds your career(s), passions, and purpose together.

It’s ingrained in all of us to hold on to things. To hold on to plans, people, and expectations. If we always do this, we risk opportunities to create something new and our potential to live freely. Looking for a new job or losing the one you have, changing your college major, taking longer than expected to graduate, backpacking through South America, applying to graduate school or deciding not to, anything and everything that we may not have seen for ourselves, can be a possibility to reroute. We can try to live from point A to point B, but definitely not all the time. There needs to be an awareness and acceptance of life’s true trajectory. It’s not a line, it’s a design that’s yet to be made.

Image: Gratisography

EducationSkills

This generation is obsessed with social media. If we’re not sharing our thoughts in 140 characters or less, then we’re trying to take the perfect selfie for Instagram or updating our statuses on Facebook. We spend so much time documenting our everyday lives through social networking that we often don’t think about the other benefits of social media.

And there are other benefits.

While it’s possible to find a job or an internship through Facebook or Twitter, you don’t want either of those social outlets to represent who you are professionally. Those accounts are personal, so they’re less likely to feature any projects you’ve worked on or document the clubs and organizations you’ve participated in. Employers are not going to be on the lookout for your accomplishments on any of the social media sites that you frequent. I’m not saying that you should stop using them because we all know the likelihood of that happening is very low (I couldn’t give up Twitter). However, what I am suggesting is that you use social media to network to your advantage.

Take all of those extracurricular activities and your many accomplishments and start building your brand. When I first heard the term ‘build your brand,’ I didn’t quite understand what it meant. Then someone explained it to me like this: imagine two companies coming out with similar products. Both companies are known for distributing quality products and they both get great customer reviews. Knowing all of that, you have to ask yourself, what makes either one of them stand out? Which company will attract the most people and sell the most products?

Well, it’s the company that knows how to market themselves the best.

The same applies for us. There are always going to be people with the same GPA as us, people who participate in the same clubs, and people who produce the same quality of work. Just because you’re always going to have people who are similar to you, though, doesn’t mean that you are not unique. Like those companies that I mentioned before, we all have qualities or strengths that make us unique. You just have to play up those strengths and SELL YOURSELF.

You can’t do that on Facebook or Twitter, so travel to a different part of the social networking world and make yourself a LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t matter if you’re in college or still in high school. Make an account and start documenting the activities and jobs and/or internships that you have done thus far that help highlight your strengths and the qualities that make you stand out from the crowd. Make a personal website or online portfolio (both of which you can share on LinkedIn) and document the dual enrollment program you participated in, that summer abroad, or any project that you were a part of.

Building your brand is all about marketing yourself and marketing something is all about getting someone to buy what you are selling. Doing this now may be what gets you into the college of your dreams, land you the internship you’ve always wanted, or if you’ve already graduated from college, it may be what gets you into grad school. You are never too young to start thinking about your future because, before you know it, high school will be over and done with and so will college. It all goes by in a blur so use your time wisely and start using social media, not just  as a way to connect with family and friends, but to connect with professionals that your parents or people in your family may know as well. If you want to work for a particular company one day, there’s a chance that they’re on LinkedIn. Also, if you are in college, you can see what alumni from your school went on to do after graduation and see what career paths people who had the same major chose.

There are so many opportunities out there and a lot of them are online,  a place where we all love to frequent anyways, so put those fingers to work and instead of using them to type out your next status update, think about what you want to do with your future. It’s fine if you don’t figure it all out in a day, no one does, but it’s good to have an idea of what you want to do. It’s also good to start getting your name out there because you never know how far your accomplishments can take you. Not every high school or college student has a LinkedIn account or an online portfolio, so once you make that decision to start building your brand, keep in mind that you’re already ahead of the game.

Image: morguefile

Culture

It seems like most of the people my age and younger have that you-only-live-once mentality. I honestly don’t have a problem with the concept of YOLO because, to be completely honest, I’m all for people realizing that we do (depending on what you believe in) ONLY have one life to live. It helps put a lot of things into perspective.

It makes you realize that there are no do-overs; no second chances. Once your time is up…it’s up. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but that’s the hard truth. Upon reading that, you shouldn’t get the urge to go out and do something crazy. You should, however, try to make the most out of the time we are given on this earth.

That is why seizing your youth is so important. That is why NOW is the time for you to do something meaningful with your life. I’m not saying that you can’t do meaningful things when you’re older but why wait until then? You don’t know what tomorrow holds so there’s no better time than the present to do something that matters.

Don’t ask me to tell you the meaning of ‘doing something that matters’ because it’s your job to figure out what that means to you. We all have different goals and dreams so when I say do something meaningful with your life, I don’t mean you have to find a way to cure cancer or step foot on the moon (although both of those accomplishments would be AMAZING and if you want to do either of those things, I say go for it!) but what I do mean is that you should do something that will make you proud of your younger self 60 years from now.

There is no right or wrong way to live but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of videos on Facebook where young people are participating in the fire challenge, the pass out challenge, and whatever other crazy challenge that’s popular these days. I’ll never understand why teens and young adults are willingly setting themselves on fire or making themselves pass out, but I do know that when they’re doing these things, more than likely, there’s a little voice in the back of their mind saying, “you only live once.”

I get it. When you’re young, you feel invincible; like you’re always going to be healthy, like you’re never going to die and you can pretty much do anything because you’re young, and when you’re young you can make mistakes or get so drunk you get alcohol poisoning or forcibly stop the oxygen from going to your brain so you can pass out. You only live once so it makes it okay to do things that won’t better your life in any way. You only live once so why not go to parties all the time instead of focusing on your schoolwork or if you’re not in school, saving up to travel the world and experience other cultures.

I can go on and on and on but the point is, this generation, with our you-only-live-once mentality, turned the concept of YOLO into an excuse for doing irresponsible things and posting it on YouTube or Facebook. I’m not saying this is every young person because it’s not, but people who do something like participating in the fire challenge or getting drunk at a party will get more ‘Likes’ and shares on Facebook than someone who graduates from high school with good grades or someone who spent their summer in a different country doing charity work. The media also tends to focus on teens and young adults who do things that don’t reflect how amazing our generation is. This doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of young people doing great things, it just means that more young people need to be proactive and do the things that matters.

Once you figure out what that means, DO IT. Don’t just sit there. Get up and make something happen. Take this life, the one you only get to live once and make something out of it. You don’t want life to pass you by because when it does, there’s no pushing a rewind button.

This is why you have to start living now. I like a good party as much as the next  person, but that’s not all there is to life. Your age is not an excuse for you to purposefully make mistakes. If you know what you’re doing is wrong or irresponsible but choose to do it because somebody said YOLO, then now is a time for you to evaluate your life. Too many young people lose their lives because they do not-so-smart things and they feel that seizing their youth equates to doing something dangerous or something that they’ll probably regret the next day.

Yes, we only live once, but you don’t know how much time you have. Don’t waste it doing something that doesn’t mean anything to you. A lot of people believe that youth is wasted on the young because, often times, we take this time in our life for granted. But I say take these years for granted. Only take them for granted in a positive way. Seize your youth. I know I keep saying that but it is exactly what I want everyone who reads this to do.

You alone are the author of your own story, so write a good one.

​Image: morguefile